I am sitting in the back seat of our Ford Falcon. In the car are my younger sisters, Lisa and Gail. Dad is driving and Mom is in the front seat with him. The car windows are slightly ajar, enough to allow the hot, dry desert air circulate in the car. The landscape is dry and barren, absent of any greenery or water. The only thing I can see is the ribbon of highway in front of us. It does not curve or incline, but continues in a straight line for what seems like an eternity.
I am 10 years old and we have moved from Hawaii to “the mainland”—a vague concept of a place that does not include the ocean, the trees, the beach or anything I of which I can relate. Sweat comes out my small body profusely. I have never been so thirsty in my life. I cannot seem to drink enough soft drinks to cool off. I’m thinking that this must be what hell is like, or at least be another planet. In reality, we are in the Mojave Desert on Route 66.
It is 105 degrees outside and having lived in the balmy breezes of Kahului for most of our young lives, we have never experienced this oven-like discomfort. A car overtakes ours with windows tightly shut. I ask my mother how this could be, and she explains that they must have air conditioning. We have no idea what air conditioning is, but it must feel better than what we’re feeling. And we are feeling lost, disoriented and overwhelmed.
I am angry.
This was my first major “voyage” from my beloved home of Hawaii. I have always felt a deep connection to the land and sea, even as a child. My family lived on the Maui coast in the small town of Kahului. My heart was always filled with joy experiencing the sights, sounds and scents of my island. I loved the lush greenery of the island valleys and the slopes of Haleakala, the smell of flowers mixed with rotting fruit, and the more urban, fishy smell of Ah Fooks Market. And then there was the ocean!
The ocean was mine. I would delight in sitting on the beach and would sink my legs into the wet sand, allowing the tide to come in and gradually surround me. Then I would ask the tide to come, slightly to the left of me, then to the right. ‘Go farther in’, I would ask, then say ‘please go farther out.’ The tide would comply sometimes–sometimes not. I didn’t mind. We had a relationship, the ocean and I.
As I look back on that happy time, it was not so happy for my family. My father worked long, exhausting hours, leaving my mother to manage on her own much of the time. There was constant fighting. Suddenly, one day at dinner, my father looked up from his plate and said “so when will we be moving to the mainland?” We all must have looked surprised. My mother looked shocked. In an instant it seemed as if things went into high gear–packing and preparing for our journey. Before long we were saying aloha to family and friends.
The realization of leaving my home did not really sink in until we were traveling in the desert on Route 66. In spite of my feelings—what I now realize was grief—there was a part of me that knew this was necessary. For the good of my family, we had to leave Hawaii.
Our journey eventually ended up in a small town in the middle of the prairie. My parents stayed in this small community for 4 decades, and except for some return trips to Hawaii, they never moved back to Hawaii. My sisters and I stayed in Nebraska until we left for college, and then we, too, left for other places far away.
My heart always stayed in Hawaii.
Now as a mature woman, I look back at the risks my parents took to move their family to another place far away, without any place to live or any prospects of employment. They simply knew that this is what they had to do to survive. Because of the choices they made, my sisters and I were able to have greater life opportunities and as a family, we had the chance to truly be happy. For that I owe a huge debt to my parents, who risked everything for a better life.
If we had stayed in Hawaii, I am certain my life would have been quite different. Would I have ended up in the same place, had the same friends, had the same husband or children? I will never know.
What I do know is that sometimes we are guided to do things that may conflict with our desires—and often our sensibilities—and yet we will do them anyway. What propels us forward? Faith. With faith in ourselves, we trust that following this labyrinthine pathway will return us to our source, our essence. If we do the inner work along the way, the signs are easier to decipher. Guideposts become clearer. Difficulties are manageable. Dreams are realized.
I am living proof that this works. My parents blazed the trail for my sisters and me. Now it is my responsibility to continue onward. In the coming months, I would like to share more thoughts with you about how to move forward. I hope you will continue reading. In the meantime, happy trails!